Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Going Solo: Q & A with Tracey Erin Smith

Ever wanted to write and perform a solo show? Artistic director and award-winning solo performer, Tracey Erin Smith, is back on London Time… this time, she’s sharing exciting news about Toronto’s inaugural SoulOTheatre Festival happening at the Red Sandcastle Theatre from May 23-26. Featuring a series of hilarious, touching, and original solo shows, as well as workshops with experts teaching the public on how to put on a one-person show, this festival is sure to inspire the performer in all of us!

Read on for some tips and insight on writing and performing a solo show, getting over the fear of being on stage, and how to find your voice.

What inspired you to create the SoulOTheatre Festival?

I love what I do and I wanted to have even more fun! Solo theatre is an art form where one person steps out of the dark into the light in front of many other people who remain seated the dark.  What is amazing about this solo act of courage, is the passionate community that forms around it.  My goal with our festival is to grow that community in Toronto. 

What can people expect from this festival?

We have seven amazing solo shows, from award-winning performers.  We also have five fantastic workshops and panels where people can learn how to use their passion and skills to create this work themselves.  Solo theatre is an art form that is there for anyone who wants it and we are on a mission to give you the tools to do it yourself. You can hear some of Canada’s best solo performers and directors talk about how they create their work and what it takes to tour and perform in festivals around the world.  

How can writing solo shows influence someone’s voice and style as a writer?

Writing a solo show has countless benefits to the writer/performer.  It will reveal to you what your unique voice and style is.  In every solo show that I have helped create, each one was completely different.  In the process, the artists discovered two things that were uniquely her own; her story and the way she tells her story.  Whether through song, dance, giving a speech, eating Nutella from a plastic knife or wrapping herself in LED lights and reciting poetry about Paris.  There are endless ways to express yourself and share your journey and discover your soul’s style.  You walk away knowing more about yourself, your life, your voice, than you ever knew before.  You really do get to know and share your soul. That’s why I call it SoulOTheatre. 

Writing can be very private and personal. How can introverted writers benefit from writing and performing a solo show?

The genre of the solo show is so versatile that an introvert can comfortably select from many forms of delivery that will suit her private and personal style. I have watched introverts blossom as they gained confidence by sharing their story. I like to say that this work is about coming out of the closet as a human being. I see their sense of self expand when they take the empowering risk to share themselves and their story on stage.  It is amazing to watch. 

Do you have any tips or advice for those who want to write and perform a solo show?

Make a list of ten turning points or a-ha moments in your life so far and then do a ten-minute timed writing about each item on your list.  Just keep the pen moving, not worrying about spelling, grammar or even making sense all the time.  You can build a whole show that way, just ten minutes at a time. 

Also, think about what you’re passionate about and use that as the main metaphor for your life story.  For example, if you’re a baseball fanatic, use that nine-innings as a metaphor for your life so far, such as; what inning are you in now, when did you ‘strike out’?  Do you feel you were recruited to a winning or losing team?  What position do you play? Have you ever been ‘traded’? 

Or, if you love cooking, cook something on stage and talk about whether you follow a recipe in your life, or just wing it.  How have you or your life been ‘cooked’ by the fires and heat you’ve been through, how did those hard times make you tastier, what kind of feast have you prepared for yourself and others by the kind of life you live?  What wisdom can you now serve that you didn’t have when you were younger? 

Take a class!  It’s always great to have supportive people around you while you create a solo show. It helps you to keep going and they may give you just the idea or suggestion at just the right time. 

Next SoulOTheatre course is a Weekend Intensive, May 31 and June 1, 2. 
Apply to:



- Master class with Tracey Erin Smith

- Festival Gala: Chris Gibbs in Antoine Feval
The story of Victorian London's most overlooked detective.

British-born comedian Chris Gibbs began his performance career in 1991, working as an acrobat on the streets of London. He's toured extensively as a stand-up comedian and improviser, written and performed five award-winning one-man shows, was a regular guest on NBC's comedy series 'Howie Do It', has played at the Just For Laughs and the Winnipeg Comedy Festivals. He performs every Wednesday with the Canadian Comedy Award-winning The National Theatre of the World.

- Gala Party - LOCATION TBA


- Master class with Tracey Erin Smith

- SoulOTheatre Grad Showcase: Briane Nasimok, Martha Chaves & Jorge Moreira

- Daniel Stolfi in Cancer Can't Dance Like This

With comedy at its core, this solo show uses larger than life characters to vividly portray Daniel's experience with cancer. Told mercilessly with a thrill and lust for the finer things in life, Cancer Can't Dance Like This recalls the pain Dan endured during his treatment while embracing his own saving grace - the fine art of comedy. Canadian comedy award-winner Daniel Stolfi selected theatre, film and television credits include: Cancer Can't Dance Like This, A Really Bad Play (FroMast Productions), The Dinner (Jason Murray).


- Master class with Tracey Erin Smith

- Panel discussion: Creating & Performing One-Person Shows
with Precious Chong, Rick Miller, Chris Gibbs and Haley McGee

- Panel discussion: Directing Solo Shows
with Anita La Selva, Adam Lazarus and Tracey Erin Smith

- Workshop: Self Promotion for Performers with Shelley Marshall

- Diane Johnstone in Desperate Church Wives

Desperate Church Wives is about unconditional love and is based on the bible story of Prophet Hosea and his harlot wife, Gomer. What would you think about a Holy Man, Minister or Rabbi, marrying a prostitute? Especially if she went back to the stroll! Church women are upset! That ho got to go!

Diane L. Johnstone, a native of Fairfield County, Connecticut, resides in Toronto. She experienced a life of sex, drugs and the Holy Ghost, naively praying her way out destruction. Now an ordained Minister, pursuing her joy of acting, she has trained with The Second City, David Rotenberg and Hollywood actress, Tasha Smith (Tyler Perry's, For Better For Worst). Stage credits: Da Kink in My Hair (Toronto and Atlantic Fringes), her solo-shows Bourgee-Bush Woman, (Pick of the Hamilton Fringe 2008 - "A performance you don't want to miss" - VIEW and 4NNNN & Critic's Pick).

- Charlie Bethel in Beowulf or Gilgamesh, You Decide! CANADIAN PREMIERE.
U.S. solo theatre star Charlie Bethel has crafted each of the centuries-old epics "Beowulf" and "Gilgamesh" into rich, entertaining one-hour presentations.

Charlie Bethel is a theatre artist from New York. He's performed his solo works in nearly every state, a few Fringes and many regional theatres across the U.S. His other solo shows are Tom Thumb, or the Tragedy of Tragedies, Seven Poor Travellers and The Odyssey. In preproduction these days are solo versions of Eros and Psyche and The Kalevala.

- Alex Dallas in Goddess
Goddess is a funny and poignant coming of age story set in 1970s London and Cyprus. Sandra, at 17, uncovers family secrets that question her sense of self and her relationship with the strangers that make up her family. A hilarious journey through adolescence and sexuality, Sandra wonders where her real roots are and who the mysterious Uncle Mike really is?

Alex Dallas was a member of the infamous female comedy troupe Sensible Footwear for 18 years. Goddess is the first in a trilogy of autobiographical one-woman shows, and was aired on CBC Radio's DNTO.


- Master class with Tracey Erin Smith

- Master class showing - 6 students present their work

- Workshop: SoulOTheatre Teaser Workshop - The public is invited to come out and try it!

- Panel: The Healing Power of Solo Theatre with Tracey Erin Smith, Andrea Thring and Sage Tyrtle
7:00pm - Sarah Murphy Dyson in Naked Ballerina
The Naked Ballerina: _naked [ney-kid] adj. unclothed; defenseless; unprotected; exposed.

Discover the darkness behind the curtain, as a ballet dancer brings you backstage into her world of blood, sweat and secrets. Illusions of perfection onstage and off are shattered as she seeks the courage to expose her truth to herself and to the world. The Naked Ballerina was honoured for Outstanding Performance and Outstanding Direction at the 2010 Toronto Fringe Festival.

Sarah Murphy Dyson, a former Royal Winnipeg Ballet first soloist, is a Gemini award-winning actress whose career includes television, film, stage, stunts, and a past life as a professional ballet dancer.

- Precious Chong in Precious, like the Adjective WORLD PREMIERE
With a counter culture drug icon as a father, two older half sisters that are black, a Chinese grandfather, and a mom who is young and sexy, Precious tries to answer the question: what was it like growing up a Chong?

Precious Chong has performed her solo shows off-Broadway, in Los Angeles and across Canada. She most recently starred in the Canadian premiere of Theresa Rebeck's solo show Bad Dates at MTC's Warehouse and toured it through Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. She performed her hit solo show Zdenka Now! at the Toronto Fringe 2009.